On War | Study Guide

Carl Clausewitz

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Course Hero. "On War Study Guide." April 26, 2019. Accessed July 7, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/On-War/.


Course Hero, "On War Study Guide," April 26, 2019, accessed July 7, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/On-War/.



Carl Clausewitz

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At a Glance

On War is an unfinished but highly influential treatise on military strategy written by Prussian officer Carl von Clausewitz. Clausewitz, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–15), uses a dialectical method of argument to describe and dissect war and its conduct. The dialectical method starts with a main idea, or thesis, and contrasts it with an idea that contradicts or negates the thesis, and then the differences between the two ideas are resolved. In particular, On War grapples with the major changes to the conduct of war brought about by the Napoleonic Wars. Clausewitz proposes that war and politics cannot be considered separately. In reality, they are closely linked. This was not always the case in the theoretical study of war. Clausewitz suggests that any theory of war must be based on how war is conducted in reality. The way to access this real experience is through the study of historical examples. On War has influenced subsequent generations of military thinkers and is widely read and discussed today. Although its argument is subtle and demands careful reading, it provides valuable insight into the revolution in military thinking and practice at the beginning of the 19th century, and its reflections on the chaotic nature of warfare remain valuable.

About the Title

Clausewitz's weighty treatise bears a simple title: On War (Vom Kriege in the original German). The title separates war from all other fields of human activity and indicates that it will be the central concern of the author's inquiry.


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